Decluttering 101 by Karen

People often ask if we're really, honestly happy living such a simple life.  "Yes, yes and yes!" is our immediate answer.  It wasn't until we entered missions that we all realized just how much stress we had experienced trying to manage the abundance of material belongings in our lives: toys, clothes, craft supplies, holiday dishes, and specialized cleaning supplies.  Now that everything we own fits into a handful of suitcases our hearts, minds and daily schedules are free... free to enjoy each other and those that we encounter.

Back in 2016, when we arrived in San Hilarion, Peru we had very few belongings; however, little by little it seemed that our house began to fill up ~ a bucket of crayons for our children's ministry, song books, medical supplies.  As a way to avoid having things that we didn't need we developed the habit of going through the house about once a month to gather everything we weren't using and didn't foresee using in the near future.  Then, we'd give those things away.  In preparation for our departure from Peru we paired our belongings back down to what would fit in a handful of suitcases and gave the rest away.  Our experience in Kenya was similar.      

Since arriving in Puerto Rico we've been incredibly blessed to receive a tremendous amount of stuff from people who desire to help us preach the gospel and serve the poor.  We've received donations from the locals as well as those living Stateside.  To prevent our house from filling up we need to be vigilant about giving stuff away in a timely manner.  About once a month we go through our drawers and closets to make sure there isn't anything laying around that we don't need, but sometimes that's not enough.  Yesterday we filled up our van with bags and bags of goodies to share with the poor.    

As we drove through the streets of Aguadilla in our big purple Jesus van we honked our horn and greeted those we've come to know.  Slowly they made their way to the corner.   

After singing songs of praise, we shared James 2:14-17 which says, "If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  So also faith of itself, if it does not have words, is dead."  We talked about the idea of "faith in action" and the importance of living the way that Jesus teaches us to live, which includes sharing what we have with others.  If we have extra food, we should share it.  If we have extra clothing, we should share it.  If we have anything sitting around our homes, we should look for opportunities to share those things with others who could actually use them.  When we were done preaching we served everyone lunch.  As they began to eat we explained that we had purchased all the stuff for lunch with money that others had shared with us so that we could share a nice meal with them.  I pray that they were able to recognize the practical example of "faith in action". 

While they were eating, each person picked a folded piece of paper out of a bin.  Those numbered papers determined the order in which they would choose the items they wanted to take.   

One at a time they entered the tarp area and chose items that either they or a loved one could use: shirts, shorts, pants, sweatshirts, dresses, undergarments, shoes, hats, purses.  

Anna did a really nice job working with each person to make sure they found things they liked and were more or less the right size.

After everyone picked two things we allowed them to go through the line again to choose additional items.  When the piles were pretty picked through we started filling bags of everything that was left for people to take back to the housing projects for whoever could use them... I felt so excited that they were thinking about their friends and neighbors.

I always feel awkward asking if I can take people's pictures when we're doing ministry.  I don't want them to feel like a spectacle; at the same time I want to be able to show our mission partners the people who are ultimately benefiting from their thoughtfulness and generosity.  Anyhow, here are a few of the people who were blessed by the donations of others that day.  The man Chris is standing with is 99 years old.  He lives alone in a small cement structure on the hill.  He doesn't have the means to prepare any food in his home so he often comes into town hoping to find someone giving away something. The woman I'm standing with is one of the regulars who we've come to love.  She plays the role of "Mom" by keeping order and mediating disputes between those who spend their days in the streets.

Michael did a really great job working with the English speaking U.S. veterans to help them find things that they needed.  He's learning to ignore their foul language and recognize their unreasonable thoughts and just love them right where they're at.

As we were starting to pack up, our friends were showing one another their gifts.  Thankfully I had my camera in my pocket so I could capture the moment.  The folks that spend their time on this particular corner in Aguadilla are so fun and receive us so hospitably.  We thank God for their friendship and always look forward to the time we get to spend together. 

I pray that when you look around your house, you notice the things that are going unused.  I pray that you make time to "declutter" so that others may enjoy the things that are just taking up space in your life and causing you stress.  I pray that you're able to resist the temptation of buying things you don't need and spend the extra money you have helping others.  I can say from personal experience that there is tremendous freedom in living simply!  In Luke 3:11 Jesus says to His disciples, "Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none."  Historically, when I read this verse I understood it to mean that the "haves" should make sacrifices to help the "have nots"; however, I've come to learn that Jesus' ways are so incredibly perfect that when we do what He desires, everyone is simultaneously blessed.  Giving away the extra stuff in our lives blesses others, for sure, but it also blesses us.  I suppose the main point of "Decluttering 101" is this ~ the less stuff we have, the less occupied our minds are with the things of this world, and the more available we are to experience the joys of life as God intended. 

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to read about our efforts to share all we have with those in need.  God bless you, Karen

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